We all come to the celebration of Mother’s Day with a long history of being a daughter, profoundly influenced for better, or worst, by our mothers. For some, the notion of honoring our mother on Mother’s Day brings about a mix of emotions. Into this emotionally charged day full of obligations, memories, some sweet, others not, I’d like to propose that if for no other reason than giving you your first example of how to deal with life challenges by developing resiliency, we should honor our mothers on this Sunday, Mother’s Day.
There is no one who we are, or were, as close to as our mothers. They were our model for who we wanted to become, and did not want to act, sometimes simultaneously. We did, at one time, idealize our mothers. Many still do. We did want to just be like mommy, and many of us still use our mothers as a measure for our actions, even if this surprises us. Not that every example we were offered, worked. Nor that our mother didn’t have her own struggles: perhaps, with an alcoholic husband, or her own drinking, eating, or drug use; or her needing to deal with violence in her home, or in her community while protecting her children, or her facing discrimination at her job. Not that our mother didn’t have her own girly thoughts, those negative messages we internalize from society that serve to both limit us and blame us. Because she both loved and wanted to protect you, her daughter, your mother may have reinforced many of these messages, after all, that was all she knew.
But our mothers did show us what worked, and what didn’t. Through our close observation of them, we absorbed our earliest life’s lessons of how to make it through life with dignity, while respecting others, and ourselves. As such we are simultaneously so very close to our mothers, and often shocked and repelled by how much we are indeed like them. This is the mother/daughter dance.The relationship between a mother and her daughter is complicated, at the very least. There is great love, tenderness, even, pride, but this relationship can also be tinged by other feelings, less talked about, less patriotic: envy of the power a mother has, particularly when we were a teenager; jealousy, on a mother’s part particularly as daughters matures, and she ages; caretaking, as mothers become infirm, and daughters become in some ways their nurturer, coming often at a time when daughters are over-whelmed by the needs their our own children. Being a daughter is a challenge. Having a daughter is a challenge. And it is within this very challenge, that our resilience is staged and begins to be developed.
So if for no other reason than to honor this journey we all face as women, with all of its challenge and rewards, I encourage you to celebrate the best that is in your mother, and in yourself as the daughter on this Mother’s Day. Remember resilience is built not just upon what we receive, but how we learn to respond to what we receive. This is the essence of resilience.
Patricia A. O'Gorman, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice. She is noted for her work on women, trauma, and substance abuse and for her warm, inspiring, and amusing presentations that make complex issues accessible and even fun. She has served as a consultant to organizations across the country in preventative and clinical strategic planning. Dr. O'Gorman is a cofounder of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, and she has held positions ranging from director of a rape crisis center to clinical director of a child welfare agency, and director of the division of prevention for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). She is a veteran of numerous television appearances, including Good Morning America, Today, and AM Sunday and is the author of eight books including: The Girly Thoughts 10 Day Detox Plan (2014), The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power (2013), and Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting (2012) 12 Steps to Self-Parenting.